Oliver Wright: The last thing Cameron needs is pressure over cuts


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The Independent Online

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, was late for yesterday's meeting of the Government's emergency committee, Cobra. He hadn't been dealing with renewed rioting overnight. Rather, he had just come from a radio studio where he'd chosen to lob his own political rock at the Prime Minister with a call to stop police cuts.

According to one person at the meeting the tension was palpable: "It was quite clear that they don't like each other much now."

Mr Johnson's decision to openly criticise the police cuts is just what Mr Cameron does not need right now. The public mood is angry. There is already a perception that the police can barely cope with the situation as things stand – let alone with the proposed 16,000 fewer officers.

The Tories pride themselves on being the party of law and order and there is unease on his back benches that they could lose this electoral advantage.

Plans to cut prison places now look unrealistic in the face of the row over sentencing and with hundreds of fresh new inmates about to come HMP's way.

And if you give in to the police, what about the fire brigade, who have also been on the front line of the riots? And then there is the Army, whose lives are put at risk in two conflicts: why should they have to shoulder the cuts?

But there really is no money – especially given sluggish growth and the worsening global financial picture – and Mr Cameron has almost no room for manoeuvre.

In the longer term, the rioting may be the least of Mr Cameron's problems.